The Starting Six series comes to you to dive into the best player at each position all-time for every organization. The biggest and best at each position, with the most memorable moments in franchise history. Here is the Carolina Hurricanes all-time lineup.
Starting Six: The Carolina Hurricanes All-Time Lineup
Assembling the Carolina Hurricanes all-time lineup was a difficult task. The Carolina Hurricanes organization has had little success in its 45 year existence. Established in 1971, the New England Whalers were part of the World Hockey Association. In 1975 the team made Hartford, Connecticut its permanent home until 1997 when the team moved to Raleigh, North Carolina. While the team does have a decent history in the WHA, three division titles, two conferences championships, and one Avco Cup, their record in the NHL is less than impressive.
Since joining the NHL in 1979, the franchise has been to the Stanley Cup Final twice, winning the Cup in 2006. The Hurricanes have never won the Presidents Trophy and have only won four division titles. Carolina has made the NHL playoffs 13 times in its history. The team had not advanced past the second round of the playoffs until the 2002 Playoffs. With that in mind, lets put together the Carolina Hurricanes all-time lineup.
While the latter version of the franchise has found some success, it would be foolish to only focus on core players from this era. Let’s face it, we all love seeing the old Whalers logo.
Centre: Ron Francis (1981-1991, 1998-2004)
Hall of fame centre Ron Francis was the slam dunk selection here. He holds the franchise record for points (1,175), goals (382), assists (793), and games played (1,186). Francis ranks fifth in all-time NHL point totals (1,798), second in all-time NHL assists (1,249) and third in all-time games played (1,731). He won three Lady Byng awards (1995, 1998, 2002), the Frank J. Selke award (1995), and King Clancy award (2002).
The fourth overall pick in the 1981 NHL Entry Draft, Francis was the model of consistency in his first 10 seasons with the organization. He averaged 1.14 points per game in 714 games during his first run. He served as team captain for the better part of six seasons. Francis was traded in 1991 to the Pittsburgh Penguins, where he would win two Stanley Cups.
In 1998 Francis returned to the organization as a free agent. In his last six seasons in Carolina Francis would score 354 points in 472 games. He was a key member of the 2001-02 Hurricanes that made a run to the Stanley Cup Final, scoring six goals and 16 points in the playoffs.
It’s hard to argue there is a better player to slot in at the centre position. There was some consideration given to Eric Staal, however even his playoff success could not overtake the dominance of Francis. Unfortunately for the Hurricanes it means centres like Stall, Rod Brind’Amour, and Jeff O’Neill are going to be left out.
Left Wing: Blaine Stoughton (1979-1984)
While Stoughton was only with the Whalers for a short time, he was like a shooting star with the team. In his 357 games with the team (in the NHL) he scored 377 points, an average of 1.06 points per game. Stoughton was a goal scoring machine in his five seasons, notching 217 goals with the Whalers.
Staughton is still the highest scoring left winger in franchise history. He was able to amass his totals in only five seasons with the team. It speaks to the lack of depth at the left wing position. Along with Sanderson and Cole, Sylvain Turgeon and Jeff Skinner were the other considerations. Moving forward Skinner will likely overtake Stoughton but for the moment he’s not there yet. Also, he bounces back and forth between wing and centre, which was also taken into consideration.
Right Wing: Kevin Dineen (1984-1992, 1996-1999)
Dineen was a third round pick of Hartford’s in the 1982 Entry Draft. He made his debut in the 1984-85 season, where he scored 25 goals and 41 points in 57 games. The following season he was up with the big club to start the season and responded with a 33-goal, 68-point season. Dineen had a breakout season in 1986-87, scoring 40 goals and 79 points to help the Whalers win their first and only Adams Division title.
Throughout his career with the organization, Dineen amassed 250 goals and 544 points. While Dineen is a solid choice, it again speaks to the overall lack of depth at the wing position. Other players considered were Pat Verbeek, Justin Williams, and Sami Kapanen.
Left Defense: Glen Wesley (1994-2003, 2003-2008)
Originally drafted (third overall, 1987) by the Boston Bruins, Glen Wesley cut his teeth playing alongside one of the best ever in Ray Bourque. After seven productive seasons in Boston, Wesley was traded to the Whalers.
In Hartford, and then Carolina, Wesley would go on to be a solid stabilizing presence on the blueline for 13 seasons. The Whalers traded for Wesley to pair with rookie Chris Pronger and help develop him. Unfortunately that did not work out. Still, Wesley was a key member of the Hurricanes team that held title of 2002 Eastern Conference Champions. Four years later, Wesley and the Hurricanes would win the franchise’s only Stanley Cup. It was Wesley’s fourth Cup Final. He lost his previous three attempts in 1987 and 1990 with the Bruins along with the aforementioned 2002 loss to the Detroit Red Wings.
Wesley retired in 2008 after 20 NHL seasons, 13 with the Whalers/Hurricanes (with a seven-game rental spell with the Toronto Maple Leafs in 2003). He is the team leader in games played among defensemen. There was strong consideration given to Dave Babych, who holds the team record for points among defensemen, however Wesley’s longevity with the team made it almost impossible to leave him off.
Right Defense: Justin Faulk (2011- Present)
By far the youngest member of the Carolina Hurricanes all-time lineup, Justin Faulk is also a no-brainer. Drafted in the second round of the 2010 NHL Entry Draft, Faulk has developed into one of the premier offensive defensemen in the NHL. In his first five seasons with Carolina, Faulk has scored 66 goals and 192 points, good for second in ‘Canes history behind Babych.
Faulk is a three-time All Star and considered one of the best powerplay defensemen in the league. While Faulk’s inclusion on this list was not really in doubt, there was also not very much competition from the right defensemen in the organization’s history. The closest competition was from Sean Hill.
Goaltender: Cam Ward (2005 – Present)
The Carolina/Hartford depth at goalie is not particularly strong. Cam Ward takes the spot almost by default. The current netminder of the team is included for his spectacular run in the 2006 Playoffs. After dropping the first two games at home, Ward replaced a struggling Martin Gerber for game three of the Hurricanes opening round series, and never looked back. He posted spectacular numbers, including a 15-8 record, 2.14 goals-against-average and .920 save percentage. In addition to the Cup, he won the Conn Smythe as the Playoff MVP. Ward was the first rookie goalie since Patrick Roy in 1986 to win a Stanley Cup. He was also the first rookie goalie to win the Conn Smythe since Ron Hextall in 1987.
Outside of his playoff heroics, Ward has been an average if not decent goalie in the NHL. He has a career record of 295-230-80 with a 2.70 goals-against-average and a .906 save percentage.
What Could Have Been
Before moving to Carolina, the Hartford Whalers had some of the leagues best players on their roster, unfortunately for the team they were either past their prime or shipped out too soon to have a significant impact for the club.
Chris Pronger – Drafted second overall in 1993, Pronger was touted as the next Larry Robinson. Pronger was not developing as fast as some fans and media wanted. Thinking he might not develop into a top tier player and with mounting pressure from the media and fans, Pronger was traded, after two seasons in Hartford, to St. Louis.
Brendan Shanahan – Acquired in the Pronger trade in 1995. Shanahan only played one season in Hartford before demanding a trade in 1996, which sent him to Detroit.
Paul Coffey – Also acquired as part of the Brendan Shanahan trade. Coffey was past his prime by the time he arrived in Hartford. He would only play 20 games with the Whalers before being traded to the Flyers.
Mark Howe – Howe joined the New England Whalers of the WHA in 1977 where he was a dominant defensemen. He would play five seasons for the Whalers (two in the WHA and three in the NHL) when he suffered a terrible thigh injury that threatened his career. Thinking he would not recover, the Whalers traded Howe to Philadelphia. Howe would recover and have a hall of fame career.